The central intellectual challenge of the Environmental Studies (EVST) major is to combine the knowledge and diverse perspectives of the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences in order to help solve environmental problems that we face today. Environmental Studies is an interdisciplinary major whose focus is to prepare the best and the brightest students for solving environmental problems in the future.
This major is grounded in chemistry, biology, and math, and is then combined with humanities and social science courses that focus on the environment. From this broad foundation, students can build their own areas of concentration and decide on their senior research. Many Environmental Studies graduates continue their career development by enrolling in top tier professional and graduate schools. studying law, business, medicine, planning or public health, as well as academic fields such as ecology, geology, economics, and history.
Prerequisites and Application to the Major
Students interested in becoming Environmental Studies majors are encouraged to complete the prerequisite courses by the end of their sophomore year, however it is not a requirement to have all of them completed at the time of application.
- Two semesters of college chemistry or AP equivalent
- One semester of college biology or AP equivalent
- One semester of college chemistry or biology lab
- One semester of college physics or calculus or AP equivalent
Application to the Major
If you are a sophomore interested in applying to the Environmental Studies major, please submit the following information and materials to the Environmental Studies Program Manager (firstname.lastname@example.org). We offer two application periods for admission to the major. For the 2012-2013 academic year, the fall term deadline is Monday, December 9, 2013 and the spring term deadline is Thursday, February 27, 2014. All materials should be submitted by 4pm on the date specified.
All applicants should submit a single pdf labeled "Applicant Last Name_EVST_Application_2016.pdf" that includes the following:
- Applicant's name, address, phone number, email address and SID.
- A current resume.
- A transcript (official or unofficial) of coursework at Yale that includes a listing of current courses.
- Statement of Purpose: Provide a short essay that describes what has motivated you to apply to become an environmental studies major, the concentration within the major you plan to pursue, and your thoughts about what you would like to do after you graduate (500 words or less). Successful applicants will demonstrate commitment to the major, focus and passion, and academic promise supported by past performance.
Application Instructions (pdf)
Recommendation letters are not required.
Requirements for the Environmental Studies Major
A total of 13.5 course credits, in addition to the prerequisite courses, are required for the major. They include 4 core courses, a junior seminar, two terms of the senior seminar, and 6 concentration courses. These courses must be taken for a letter grade. A summary of requirements for the major can be downloaded here.
See the Yale Blue Book Online for course availability, times and descriptions. Search under "Environmental Studies" for a list of current or recent course offerings in Environmental Studies.
Majors must take at least 2 core courses from both the humanities and social sciences (Group A) & the environmental and natural sciences (Group B). Core courses can fulfill Yale College distributional requirements.
Group A: Humanities and Social Sciences
- EVST 120: Introduction to Environmental History. (Paul Sabin) Survey of interactions between people and natural environments in North America from precolonial times to the present, including ecological, political, cultural, and economic dimensions. The rise of modern conservation and environmental movements; development of public policy.
- EVST 226: Global Environmental History. (Harvey Weiss) The dynamic relationship between environmental and social forces from the Pleistocene to the present. Pleistocene extinctions; transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture; origins of cities, states, and civilization in Mesopotamia and Egypt; adaptations and collapses of early Old and New World civilizations in the face of environmental disasters; the destruction and reconstruction of the New World by the Old.
- EVST 255: Environmental Politics and Law. (John Wargo) Exploration of the politics, policy, and law associated with attempts to manage environmental quality and natural resources. Themes of democracy, liberty, power, property, equality, causation, and risk. Case histories include air quality, water quality and quantity, pesticides and toxic substances, land use, agriculture and food, parks and protected areas, and energy.
- EVST 340: Economics of Natural Resources. (Robert Mendelsohn) Microeconomic theory brought to bear on current issues in natural resource policy. Topics include regulation of pollution, hazardous waste management, depletion of the world's forests and fisheries, wilderness and wildlife preservation, and energy planning.
- EVST 345: Environmental Anthropology. (Michael Dove) History of the anthropological study of the environment. The nature-culture dichotomy, ecology and social organization, methodological debates, and the politics of the environment.
Group B: Environmental and Natural Sciences
- EVST 201 & 202L: Atmosphere, Ocean and Environmental Change. (Ronald Smith) Physical processes that control Earth's atmosphere, ocean, and climate. Quantitative methods for constructing energy and water budgets. Topics include clouds, rain, severe storms, regional climate, the ozone layer, air pollution, ocean currents and productivity, the seasons, El Niño, the history of Earth's climate, global warming, energy, and water resources.
- EVST 223: General Ecology. (David Vasseur and David Post) The theory and practice of ecology, including the ecology of individuals, population dynamics and regulation, community structure, ecosystem function, and ecological interactions at broad spatial and temporal scales. Topics such as climate change, fisheries management, and infectious diseases are placed in an ecological context.
Majors must complete 1 junior level seminar course from the offerings that has been approved by the DUS. You may take this seminar during any year, not just the junior year. Seminars should provide the following:
1. Broad exposure to the academic literature
2. An extensive writing requirement (literature review, primary source based research paper, prospectus development)
3. Exposure to research methods
Examples of junior seminars:
- EVST 200: Earth System Science. (Jeffrey Park) A survey of geoscience. Interaction of lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and Earth's deep interior; natural controls on environment and climate in past, present, and future; rocks, minerals, glaciers, earthquakes, and volcanoes; natural hazards and natural resources.
- EVST 215: Writing About Science and the Environment. (Carl Zimmer) An intensive workshop in writing about science and the environment for a broad audience. Translating complex subjects into elegant prose, conducting interviews, handling controversies, researching articles, and finding one's voice. Readings include exemplary works ranging from newspaper articles to book excerpts.
- EVST 285: Political Ecology: Nature, Culture, and Power. (Amity Doolittle) Study of the relationship between society and the environment. Global processes of environmental conservation, development, and conflicts over natural resource use; political-economic contexts of environmental change; ways in which understandings of nature are discursively bound up with notions of culture and identity.
- EVST 290: Geographic Information Systems. (C. Dana Tomlin) A practical introduction to the nature and use of geographic information systems (GIS) in environmental science and management. Applied techniques for the acquisition, creation, storage, management, visualization, animation, transformation, analysis, and synthesis of cartographic data in digital form.
- EVST 367: Water Resources and Environmental Change. (James Saiers) The effects of variations in the hydrologic cycle on the global distribution of freshwater. The role of environmental change in regulating freshwater supply and quality. The influences of agriculture, industry, mining, urbanization, climate change, and energy-production alternatives on freshwater resources in the United States and abroad.
- EVST 398: Energy, Climate, Law, and Policy. (John Wargo) Overview of the legal norms governing patterns of energy use and associated adverse effects on climate stability, environmental quality, and human health. Focus on U.S. law and policy, with some consideration of relevant international treaties. Special attention to building efficiency and to land-use regulation and urban growth, particularly coastal prospecting and development.
A list of methods courses for 2013-2014 can be found here.
Students plan their concentration in consultation with the Director of Undergraduate Studies and the student's advisor. A concentration is defined as six courses that provide depth in a field of interest; four courses should be intermediate and upper level electives from a single department or program and at least two additional electives from relevant disciplines outside the immediate area of concentration forming a coherent area of study.
Suggested Concentration Courses
Senior Seminar and Essay
Seniors are required to take two semesters of Senior Research (EVST 496a and 496b) in which they work on their essay under the supervision of a faculty advisor. Seniors pursuing a double major may opt for a single term of the colloquium, but this must be approved by the DUS in advance. For examples of past senior essay topics, visit the Student Research section of our website. For a copy of the Senior Essay Handbook, click here.
- EVST 496: Senior Research Project and Colloquium. Independent research under the supervision of members of the faculty, resulting in a senior essay. Students meet with peers and faculty members regularly throughout the fall term to discuss the progress of their research. Projects should offer substantial opportunity for interdisciplinary work on environmental problems.
Environmental Studies students are expected to work closely with Yale faculty from various departments. Faculty advisors share responsibility with the DUS for advising students on their course selection, graduation requirements, and most importantly on their senior research project. The faculty advisor is also a valuable mentor to students during and after their education at Yale by aiding students in planning their curriculum, providing career advice, and writing recommendations for students. To learn more about choosing and working with your faculty advisor, please visit this page.